August 21, 2007
By David Darlington
Wired magazine has reported another effort to unmask unreliable Wikipedia contributors, quite similar to one we reported on last week. The Wikipedia Scanner is the brainchild of California Institute of Technology graduate student Virgil Griffith. The program tracks the IP address of millions of anonymous edits in the online encyclopedia (edits made by unregistered Wikipedia users are recorded by IP address) and cross-references those addresses with the data on who owns the associated IP address block. Companies will often make anonymous edits to their Wikipedia entries to put a more favorable spin on public information or excise bad news (for example, Wired reports the Diebold company, makers of e-voting machines, tried to anonymously cut 15 paragraphs critical of its security procedures and political connections). Or, likewise, politicians will put their own spin on Wikipedia information by boosting their own record or criticizing their opponent’s, as anyone who has followed a candidate’s page during election season can surely attest to. While it can’t stop vandalism or corporate p.r., the Wikipedia Scanner does shed some light on who’s watching the Wiki.